* China on Saturday ringed in the Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival. Regarded as the most celebrated holiday among Chinese, it signifies a time of joyful family reunions and a slew of cultural events.
* Lighting and appreciating lanterns during the Spring Festival is a time-honored tradition in China. Chinese people have also had a tradition of hiking up a mountain, praying for good luck and wishing for a good fortune in the new year.
* While traditional festival activities have seen a revival, Chinese people are also pursuing new and unique ways of bidding farewell to the past year and welcoming the new one.
Landmarks throughout China are aglow with the auspicious color red. Lanterns adorn the streets and alleys in both cities and towns alike. The lively melodies of upbeat music resonate through supermarkets and shopping malls, creating a joyful atmosphere.
As the festive mood reached its peak, China on Saturday ringed in the Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival. Regarded as the most celebrated holiday among Chinese, it signifies a time of joyful family reunions and a slew of cultural events.
As China bid farewell to the Year of the Rabbit, it happily welcomed the Year of the Dragon, or the Year of the Loong as some people have preferred, with wishes for fortune and success.
Loong, or Chinese dragon, the fifth sign in the traditional Chinese zodiac animal cycle, represents a totem of the Chinese nation, and Chinese people at home and abroad proudly call themselves "the descendants of loong."
People visit the Central Street in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Feb. 9, 2024. (Xinhua/Liu Heyao)
Weeks ago, tradition-themed activities kicked off across the country as Chinese people immersed themselves in lively bazaars and gigantic lanterns shows.
On Feb. 2, the Kitchen God Festival, also known as the Little New Year on the Chinese lunar calendar, enjoyed a massive celebration. In the city of Xi'an, which has a history of over 3,100 years, a temple fair was held in the Yongxingfang cultural block in the northwest region of the city.
A group of artists performed "Huayin Laoqiang," a traditional Chinese opera dubbed as "rock'n roll on the yellow earth," and enjoyed a passionate round of applause from the audience. Meanwhile, craftsmen could be seen making Nianhua, or Lunar New Year pictures, a kind of centuries-old woodcut painting in China.
Mahsa Habibi, an Iranian student celebrating the Spring Festival in China for the first time, was amazed by the charm of China's lunar new year customs. "I learned about Chinese traditions in the Little New Year like house cleaning and eating malt candy, and shared the festival atmosphere with the locals. It was a fresh experience for me," said Mahsa.
Lighting and appreciating lanterns during the Spring Festival is a time-honored tradition in China. At the heart of Xi'an, the country's largest and best-preserved ancient city wall has been illuminated by a spectacular lantern festival.
An aerial drone photo taken on Feb. 2, 2024 shows a dragon-shaped gigantic lantern on the top of the city wall in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. (Xinhua/Liu Xiao)
A total of 37 dragon-shaped gigantic lanterns twist and turn along the tops of the city wall, flecked with Chinese knots, peonies and other festive ornaments. Among them, an 18-meter high lantern at Yongning Gate (South Gate) Square, inspired by a C-shaped jade dragon from the early Hongshan culture over 5,000 years ago, has been particularly eye-catching and attracted visitors to take pictures.
"The city wall lantern festival has been held for almost four decades. The version of the Year of the Dragon features green and low carbon materials. For example, energy-saving lamps and reusable outer skins are widely used," said Qiu Yue, artist director of the activity.
Chinese people have always had a tradition of hiking up a mountain, praying for good luck and wishing for a good fortune in the new year.
Around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Fuyuan City in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, located in the easternmost part of China, witnessed the first ray of sunshine of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Many citizens and tourists climbed to the top of the Nanshan Mountain to welcome the sunrise.
"Seeing the sunrise in the easternmost part of our motherland on the first day of the Year of the Dragon, I feel that the whole year will be vibrant and smooth," said Li Shibo, a tourist from east China's Jiangsu Province.
An aerial drone photo taken on Feb. 2, 2024 shows lanterns at Yongning Gate (South Gate) Square in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. (Xinhua/Liu Xiao)
While traditional festival activities have seen a revival, Chinese people are also pursuing new and unique ways of bidding farewell to the past year and welcoming the new one.
In northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, runners are running a dragon-shaped route. "Running the dragon-shaped route is more rewarding and ceremonial," said 50-year-old runner Xu Yan in Yinchuan City.
"Many people like this idea and my cousin was encouraged to join me for a run after she saw the WeChat moment I posted," Xu said, who ran over an hour to complete the more than 10 km-long dragon-shaped route.
The eight-day Spring Festival holiday also highlights a nationwide tourism boom. From the ice-covered landscapes in the northernmost Heilongjiang Province to the tropical coastal city of Sanya in the southernmost Hainan Province, tourists across China are enjoying a multitude of breathtaking sceneries.
Yang Rui, a tourist from northeast China's Liaoning Province, came to the snow expo at the Sun Island scenic spot in Harbin in Heilongjiang Province.
"I was deeply attracted the moment I saw the dragon-shaped snow sculpture. Every part of it is full of strength, as if it were going to take off. It conveys wishes for peace, agility and prosperity in the Year of the Dragon," Yang said.
Visitors look at a dragon-shaped exhibit at the Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Jan. 16, 2024. (Xinhua/Li Yibo)
"I can feel the auspicious and festive atmosphere. I hope all good wishes will come true in the new year," Yang said.
The museum craze among Chinese youth has continued throughout the holiday and ticket booking has been no easy task. In response, museums have adopted measures to better meet the surging demand. For example, the Sanxingdui Museum in southwest China's Sichuan Province has delayed its closing time until 8 p.m. during the holiday.
Museums are also greeting visitors with exhibitions featuring lunar new year elements inspired by the Chinese dragon. The Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an rolled out a special display dedicated to the Chinese dragon culture. Exhibits include an S-shaped golden-gilted iron-cored bronze dragon from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the centerpiece of the show.
With a growing appetite for artistic performances, the younger generation is also choosing to spend their holiday at the theater.
"I've just watched an excellent music performance, which was a refreshing experience that took my troubles away. I'm going to take my family to the theater again during the festival," said Xu Rui, a local university student.
"From Chinese dance dramas to operas and concerts, we're going to stage performances with different themes almost every day this week. For instance, on the fifth day of the lunar new year, which coincides with Valentine's Day, music pieces from famous romantic films will be performed on a concert," said Gao Yuyuan with the Shaanxi Opera House.
Editor: Lyu Yun